By Richard E. Miller, June 27, 2009
|1. Benjamin Banneker Park Marker|
“Ö it is the indispensable duty of those, who maintain for themselves the rights of human nature, ... to extend their power and influence to the relief of every part of the human race...” – Benjamin Banneker, 1792
Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806) was born a free black in Maryland near the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay. With very little formal schooling, he became Americaís first black man of science, an accomplished mathematician, astronomer, and producer of almanacs.
In 1791 Major Andrew Ellicott selected Banneker to assist him in the survey of the ten-mile square that became the District of Columbia. Bannekerís astronomical work contributed significantly to making the boundaries of the new capital of the United States exact.
After returning to his farm in Maryland, Banneker completed calculations for an almanac for the year 1792. His almanacs continued to be published for the years 1792 through 1797. At least 28 editions were printed and were widely distributed in the United States and abroad.
[Commemorative U.S. Postage Stamp: “Benjamin Benneker - Black Heritage - USA, 15c”.] No contemporary portrait of Banneker is known to exist. This commemorative postage stamp issued on February 15, 1980, is base upon descriptions provided
by neighbors who knew him.
By Richard E. Miller, June 27, 2009
|2. Benjamin Banneker Park, view of the fountain, looking south toward the Potomac River -|
|the marker is on the promenade in the shadows, lower right.|
[Page from Bannekerís journal.] Banneker was able to calculate and predict precisely the positions of the sun, moon and planets each year for his almanacs. Writing and charting in his journal on April 3, 1791, he recorded this solar eclipse.
[Benjamin Bannekerís "Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia Almanack and Ephemeris for the Year of our Lord, 1792."] In colonial America, the almanac was an indispensable reference work found in almost every home.
[Bannekerís famous wooden clock.] Banneker became intrigued by a pocket watch he had seen as a young man. Using a knife he intricately carved out the wheels and gears of a wooden timepiece. The remarkable clock he constructed from memory kept time and struck the hours for the next fifty years.
Erected by National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.
Location. 38° 52.911′ N, 77° 1.562′ W. Marker is in Southwest, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker can be reached from L'Enfant Plaza (10th Street), SW west of 9th Street, SW. Click for map. Marker is on the L'Enfant Promenade at the end of 10th Street, just south of the Southwest Freeway (I-395). It is one block west of the Benjamin Banneker City Park which is situated between 7th and 9th Streets, G Street and Maine Avenue, SW. It is accessible from I-395 via the 7th Street exit. Marker is in this post office area: Washington DC 20024, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Banneker Circle: Vista to the Past (a few steps from this marker); Escape from Slavery (approx. 0.3 miles away); All Aboard! (approx. 0.4 miles away); Enid A. Haupt Garden (approx. 0.4 miles away); Spencer Fullerton Baird (approx. 0.4 miles away); Andrew Jackson Downing (approx. half a mile away); Federal Grain Inspection Service (approx. half a mile away); Bald Cypress (approx. half a mile away). Click for a list of all markers in Southwest.
Also see . . .
1. Banneker's Letter to Jefferson. On August 19, 1791, Benjamin Banneker wrote a lengthy letter to Thomas Jefferson, then Secretary of State, in which "having taken up my pen in order to direct to you as a present, a copy of an Almanack... I was unexpectedly and unavoidably led" to develop a discourse on race and rights.
Banneker made it a point to "freely and Cheerfully acknowledge, that I am of the African race." Though not himself a slave, Banneker encouraged Jefferson to accept "the indispensable duty of those who maintain for themselves the rights of human nature," by ending the "State of tyrannical thraldom, and inhuman captivity, to which too many of my brethren are doomed."
Appealing to Jefferson's "measurably friendly and well-disposed" attitude toward blacks, Banneker presumed that he would "readily embrace every opportunity to eradicate that train of absurd and false ideas and opinions which so generally prevail with respect to us."
After acknowledging that by writing to Jefferson he was taking "a liberty which Seemed to me scarcely allowable," considering "the almost general prejudice and prepossession which is so prevalent in the world against those of my complexion," Banneker launched into a critical response to Jefferson's published ideas about the inferiority of blacks.
With restrained passion, Banneker chided Jefferson and other framers of the Declaration of Independence for the hypocrisy "in detaining by fraud and violence so numerous a part of my brethren under groaning captivity and cruel oppression, that you should at the Same time be found guilty of that most criminal act, which you professedly detested in others, with respect to yourselves."
Citing Jefferson's own words from the Declaration -- the "Self-Evident" truth "that all men are created equal" -- Banneker challenged Jefferson and his fellows "to wean yourselves from those narrow prejudices which you have imbibed with respect to" African Americans. (Submitted on June 30, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
2. Jefferson's Reply to Banneker. (Submitted on June 30, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
3. Wikipedia entry for Benjamin Banneker. As is the case with many notable individuals, there is some controversy over Benjamin Banneker's historical contributions. (Submitted on July 6, 2009, by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia.)
Credits. This page originally submitted on June 30, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 2,816 times since then. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on June 30, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. • Kevin W. was the editor who published this page.
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